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Vatican investment office announces outside review

By on Thursday, 17 October 2013

(CNS)

(CNS)

The office that handles the Vatican’s investment portfolio and its real estate holdings, as well as serving as the Vatican employment office and procurement agency, has asked an international financial risk-management company to review its books and procedures.

The office, known as the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, announced on Tuesday that a “due diligence” review by the Promontory Financial Group had begun. Promontory already has been hired to review all the accounts and procedures of the Vatican bank, which is independent of the investment office.

The office, known by its Italian acronym APSA, said the review would facilitate a more accurate understanding of its financial situation and the health of its operational procedures.

The results, it said, will be given to the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, which Pope Francis established in July. The Pope set up the commission to offer technical support and “develop strategic solutions” to help the Vatican simplify and better coordinate its scattered resources, budgets, properties and assets.

APSA also announced on Tuesday that, in response to recommendations made by the Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See, it was creating a supervisory board. The statement did not say what the responsibilities or power of the board would be, but it said the five experts in real estate, investments and banking who had been serving as APSA consultants agreed to join the board.

Closer control of APSA, including oversight by the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority, was one of the recommendations made in July 2012 by “Moneyval” — the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism.

Moneyval investigators looked at the Vatican bank and APSA, because it said APSA was, in effect, a “financial institution.”

The office originally was set up to manage the Vatican’s real estate holdings and the financial settlement paid by the Italian government in 1929 with the signing of the Lateran Pacts, in which Italy and the Vatican recognized each other’s sovereignty and boundaries.

In the 2012 report, Moneyval estimated APSA’s assets to be worth about 680 million euros.

The assets, the Vatican reported, included the accounts of 23 individuals: 15 cardinals and bishops who deposited charitable contributions made on their behalf with the proceeds going to the Vatican or their home dioceses; and eight laypeople who made large donations, particularly of property, to the Vatican and were receiving annuities until their deaths.

The Vatican stopped accepting such arrangements in 2001 and has since been taking steps to close the existing accounts, the Moneyval report said.